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Faculty-led volunteers prevail at food bank’s ‘Chopped’ debut

A team led by Chef Michael J. Ditchfield, Penn College instructor of hospitality management/culinary arts, was named the winner of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank’s inaugural cooking competition, Chopped.

On Ditchfield’s team were volunteers from three of the Food Bank’s partner agencies: Ron Taylor, a trained chef and a volunteer and member of Diamond Street Christian Church; Karla Sexton, business development/client development officer for River Valley Health and Dental; and Narcisa Ebner, a client of Hope Enterprises’ as well as Food Bank board member Frank Pellegrino. Ditchfield’s “Blue Team” faced off against the “Red Team,” led by Chef Peter Daugherty of The James Restaurant and featuring a similar group of community members.

Each team received a basket of required ingredients that are donated to the Food Bank through retail partnerships, such as Walmart and Sam’s Club, and are available to the Food Bank’s partner agencies – plus a last-minute surprise ingredient: sweet pickled watermelon rinds. With their ingredients, each team whipped up an appetizer, entrée and dessert. Waiting to serve as judges were Jim Lundy, a faithful Food Bank volunteer; Jennifer Wilson, president and chief executive officer of the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania; and Alivia Tagliaferri, owner of Ironcutter Creative and Tag’s Foods. Additionally, the Food Bank raffled an opportunity for one attendee to sit as the fourth judge.

Ditchfield’s blue team served an appetizer of sautéed eggplant and garlic soup with chicken and sardine quenelle, while Daugherty’s red team prepared pasta con sarde (pasta with sardines), with grilled eggplant.

For the entrée round, the blue team offered grilled chicken with Asian-influenced pinto beans, a peanut sauce, cucumbers and pea and horseradish drizzle, while the red team served a duo of grilled and fried chicken with cucumber and watermelon relish.

In the dessert round, the blue team closed its meal with grilled watermelon, pickled watermelon rinds, and a balsamic and wild berry sabayon, while the red team served watermelon steak with Malta Goya balsamic glaze and a grape and cucumber granita.

A partial goal of the event, which was also featured in a WNEP newscast, was to show partner agencies creative ways to use the ingredients available from the Food Bank. Recipes were provided.

According to officials from The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, the organization regularly receives rescued food from grocery chains, supercenters, convenience stores and more. Two of its biggest retail partners are Walmart and Sam’s Club, which regularly donate millions of pounds of food and thousands of dollars in monetary donations. The retailer’s Fight Hunger, Spark Change campaign is happening in stores now, and you can help them and the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank provide meals for thousands right here in our community and continue our culinary partnership, according to the Food Bank staff. This is the final week to participate.

– Photos by Jennifer A. Cline, writer/magazine editor

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